McKellen was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1979, was knighted in 1991 for services to the performing arts, and was made a Companion of Honour for services to drama and to equality, in the 2008 New Year Honours.
McKellen was born in Burnley, Lancashire, England, though he spent most of his early life in Wigan. Born shortly before the outbreak of World War II, the experience had some lasting impact on him. In response to an interview question when an interviewer remarked that he seemed quite calm in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks, he said: "Well, darling, you forget — I slept under a steel plate until I was four years old."
McKellen's father, Denis Murray McKellen, a civil engineer, was a lay preacher, and both of his grandfathers were preachers. At the time of Ian's birth, his parents already had a five-year-old daughter, Jean. His home environment was strongly Christian, but non-orthodox. "My upbringing was of low nonconformist Christians who felt that you led the Christian life in part by behaving in a Christian manner to everybody you met." When he was 12, his mother, Margery Lois (née Sutcliffe), died; his father died when he was 24. Of his coming out of the closet to his stepmother, Gladys McKellen, who was a member of the Religious Society of Friends, he said, "Not only was she not fazed, but as a member of a society which declared its indifference to people's sexuality years back, I think she was just glad for my sake that I wasn't lying anymore."
Sir Ian McKellen,Sean Mathias and Evgeny Lebedev, at The Grapes
Sean Mathias is a British theatre director, film director, writer and actor. He is known for directing the film Bent and highly acclaimed theatre productions. He has also had a notable professional partnership with actor and former lover Sir Ian McKellen since the late 1970s. He was included in the 2006 list of the 101 most influential gay and lesbian people in Britain. Mathias is co-owner of The Grapes pub along with business partners Ian McKellen and Evgeny Lebedev, since September 2011.
McKellen attended Bolton School (boys division), of which he is still a supporter, attending regularly to talk to pupils. McKellen's acting career started at Bolton Little Theatre, of which he is now the patron. An early fascination with the theatre was encouraged by his parents, who took him on a family outing to Peter Pan at the Opera House in Manchester when he was three. When he was nine, his main Christmas present was a wood and bakelite, fold-away Victorian theatre from Pollocks Toy Theatres, with cardboard scenery and wires to push on the cut-outs of Cinderella and of Laurence Olivier's Hamlet. His sister took him to his first Shakespeare play, Twelfth Night, by the amateurs of Wigan's Little Theatre, shortly followed by their Macbeth and Wigan High School for Girls' production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with music by Mendelssohn and with the role of Bottom played by Jean McKellen. (Jean continued to act, direct, and produce amateur theatre up to her death.)
He won a scholarship to St Catharine's College, Cambridge, when he was eighteen, where he developed an attraction to Derek Jacobi. He has characterised it as "a passion that was undeclared and unrequited".
While at Cambridge McKellen was a member of the Marlowe Society, appearing in Henry IV (as Shallow) alongside Trevor Nunn and Jacobi (March 1959), Cymbeline (as Posthumus, opposite Margaret Drabble as Imogen) and Doctor Faustus. His first professional appearance was in 1961 at the Nottingham Playhouse, as Roper in A Man for All Seasons, although an audio recording of the Marlowe Society's Cymbeline had gone on commercial sale as part of the Argo Shakespeare series. After four years in regional repertory theatres he made his first West End appearance, in A Scent of Flowers, regarded as a "notable success". In 1965 he was a member of Laurence Olivier's National Theatre Company at the Old Vic, which led to rôles at the Chichester Festival. In the 1970s and 1980s McKellen became a well-known figure in British theatre, performing frequently at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre, where he played several leading Shakespearean roles, including the titular part in Macbeth (which he had first assayed for Trevor Nunn in a "gripping...out of the ordinary" production, with Judi Dench, at Stratford in 1976), and Iago in Othello, in award-winning productions directed by Nunn. Both of these productions were adapted into television films, also directed by Nunn.
In 2007 he returned to the Royal Shakespeare Company, in productions of King Lear and The Seagull, both directed by Trevor Nunn. In 2009 he appeared in a very popular revival of Waiting for Godot at London's Haymarket Theatre, directed by Sean Mathias and playing opposite Patrick Stewart.
McKellen is also President and Patron of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain, an association of amateur theatre organisations throughout the UK.
McKellen had taken film roles throughout his career — beginning in 1969 with his role of George Matthews in A Touch of Love, but it was not until the 1990s that he became more widely recognised in this medium, through several roles in blockbuster Hollywood films.
In 1993, McKellen had a supporting role as a South African tycoon in the critically acclaimed Six Degrees of Separation, in which he starred with Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland, and Will Smith. In the same year, he appeared in minor roles in the television miniseries Tales of the City (based on the novel by his friend Armistead Maupin) and the film Last Action Hero, in which he played Death. The same year, McKellen appeared in the television film And the Band Played On, about the discovery of the AIDS virus, for which McKellen won a CableACE Award for Supporting Actor in a Movie or Miniseries and was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie.
In 1995, he played the title role in the critical hit Richard III, which transported the setting into an alternative 1930s wherein England is ruled by Fascists. McKellen co-produced and co-wrote the film, adapting the play for the screen based on a stage production of Shakespeare's play directed by Richard Eyre for the Royal National Theatre, in which McKellen had appeared. In McKellen's role as executive producer he returned his £50,000 fee in order to complete the filming of the final battle. In his review of the film, Hal Hinson of The Washington Post, called McKellen's performance a "lethally flamboyant incarnation" and said his "florid mastery ... dominates everything". His performance in the title role garnered best actor nominations for the BAFTA Award and Golden Globe, and won the European Film Award for Best Actor. His screenplay was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
His breakthrough role among mainstream American audiences came with the modestly acclaimed Apt Pupil, based on a story by Stephen King. McKellen portrayed an old Nazi officer, living under a false name in the U.S., who was befriended by a curious teenager (Brad Renfro) who threatened to expose him unless he told his story in detail. His casting was based partly on his performance in Cold Comfort Farm, seen by Apt Pupil director Bryan Singer, despite the BBC's refusal to release it in cinemas. He was subsequently nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in the 1998 film Gods and Monsters, wherein he played James Whale, the director of Show Boat (1936) and Frankenstein.
He reteamed with Bryan Singer to play the comic book supervillain Magneto in X-Men and its sequels X2: X-Men United and X-Men: The Last Stand. It was while filming X-Men that he was cast as the wizard Gandalf in Peter Jackson's three-film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (consisting of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the King). McKellen received honors from the Screen Actors Guild for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for his work in The Fellowship of the Ring and was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the same role. He also voiced Gandalf in the video game adaptions of the film trilogy as well as in The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age. On January 10, 2011 it was officially confirmed that Mckellen would reprise the role of Gandalf in the film adaptation of The Hobbit. The trilogy would also bring him a little sadness. Having met young New Zealander Greg Nickels on-set, he began a relationship so fruitful the couple actually exchanged rings, only to split just two months later.
On 16 March 2002, he was the host on Saturday Night Live. In 2003, McKellen made a guest appearance as himself on the American cartoon show The Simpsons, in a special British-themed episode entitled "The Regina Monologues", along with Tony Blair and J. K. Rowling. In April and May 2005, he played the role of Mel Hutchwright in Granada Television's long running soap opera, Coronation Street, fulfilling a lifelong ambition. He is also known for his voicework, having narrated Richard Bell's film Eighteen, as a grandfather who leaves his World War II memoirs on audiocassette for his teenage grandson.
McKellen has appeared in limited release films, such as Emile (which was shot in a few days during the X2 shoot), Neverwas and Asylum. He appeared as Sir Leigh Teabing in The Da Vinci Code. During a 17 May 2006 interview on The Today Show with the Da Vinci Code cast and director, Matt Lauer posed a question to the group about how they would have felt if the film had borne a prominent disclaimer that it is a work of fiction, as some religious groups wanted. McKellen responded, "I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying 'This is fiction.' I mean, walking on water? It takes... an act of faith. And I have faith in this movie — not that it's true, not that it's factual, but that it's a jolly good story." He continued, "And I think audiences are clever enough and bright enough to separate out fact and fiction, and discuss the thing when they've seen it". McKellen appeared in the 2006 series of Ricky Gervais' comedy series Extras, where he played himself directing Gervais' character Andy Millman in a play about gay lovers. McKellen received a 2007 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor - Comedy Series nomination for his performance. He also appeared in the 2009 remake of the 1967 The Prisoner, where he played the character Number Two.
McKellen and his first serious partner, Brian Taylor, a history teacher from Bolton, began their relationship in 1964. It lasted for eight years, ending in 1972. They lived in London, where McKellen continued to pursue his career as an actor. For over a decade, he has lived in a five-story Victorian conversion in Narrow Street, Limehouse. In 1978 he met his second partner, Sean Mathias, at the Edinburgh Festival. This relationship lasted until 1988. According to Mathias, the ten-year love affair was tempestuous, with conflicts over McKellen's success in acting versus Mathias' somewhat less-successful career. Mathias and McKellen remained friends, and Mathias directed McKellen in Waiting For Godot at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2009. The pair have entered into business partnership with Evgeny Lebedev purchasing the lease on The Grapes public house in Narrow Street, close to McKellen's home. (Picture: Brian Taylor)
A friend of Ian Charleson and a great admirer of his work, McKellen contributed a chapter to the 1990 book, For Ian Charleson: A Tribute.
While McKellen had made his sexual orientation known to his fellow actors early on in his stage career, it was not until 1988 that he came out to the general public, in a programme on BBC Radio 3. The context that prompted McKellen's decision — overriding any concerns about a possible negative effect on his career — was that the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Bill, simply known as Section 28, was under consideration in the British Parliament. McKellen has stated that he was influenced in his decision by the advice and support of his friends, among them noted gay author Armistead Maupin.
In 2003, during an appearance on Have I Got News For You, McKellen claimed that when he visited Michael Howard, then Environment Secretary (responsible for local government), in 1988 to lobby against Section 28, Howard refused to change his position but did ask him to leave an autograph for his children. McKellen agreed, but wrote, "Fuck off, I'm gay." McKellen also described Howard's junior ministers, the Conservatives David Wilshire and Dame Jill Knight, who were the architects of Section 28, as the 'ugly sisters' of a political pantomime.
Section 28, which proposed to prohibit local authorities from "promoting homosexuality" 'as a kind of pretended family relationship', was ambiguous and the actual impact of the amendment was uncertain. McKellen became active in fighting the proposed law, and declared himself gay on a BBC Radio programme where he debated the subject of Section 28 with the conservative journalist Peregrine Worsthorne. He has said of this period: "My own participating in that campaign was a focus for people [to] take comfort that if Ian McKellen was on board for this, perhaps it would be all right for other people to be as well, gay and straight". Section 28 was, however, enacted and remained on the statute books until 2003.
McKellen has continued to be very active in LGBT rights efforts. In a statement on his website regarding his activism, the actor commented that:
I have been reluctant to lobby on other issues I most care about – nuclear weapons (against), religion (atheist), capital punishment (anti), AIDS (fund-raiser) because I never want to be forever spouting, diluting the impact of addressing my most urgent concern; legal and social equality for gay people worldwide.McKellen is a co-founder of Stonewall, a LGBT rights lobby group in the United Kingdom, named after the Stonewall riots. McKellen is also patron of LGBT History Month, Pride London, GAY-GLOS, The Lesbian & Gay Foundation, and FFLAG where he appears in their video "Parents Talking".
In 1994, at the closing ceremony of the Gay Games, he briefly took the stage to address the crowd, saying, "I'm Sir Ian McKellen, but you can call me Serena" (this nickname, originally given to him by Stephen Fry, had been circulating within the gay community since McKellen's knighthood was conferred). In 2002, he attended the Academy Awards with his then-boyfriend, New Zealander Nick Cuthell. (Picture: Nick Cuthell)
In 2006, McKellen spoke at the pre-launch of the 2007 LGBT History Month in the UK, lending his support to the organisation and its founder, Sue Sanders. In 2007 McKellen became a patron of The Albert Kennedy Trust, an organisation that provides support to young, homeless and troubled LGBT people.
In 2006, McKellen became a patron of Oxford Pride. At the time he said:
I have been to many Pride occasions across the World, from being Grand Marshall in San Francisco to the first ever gay march in Johannesburg in post-apartheid South Africa. Wherever gay people gather publicly to celebrate their sense of community, there are two important results. First, onlookers can be impressed by our confidence and determination to be ourselves and, second, gay people, of whatever age, can be comforted by the occasion to take first steps towards coming out and leaving the closet forever behind. I send my love to all members of Oxford Pride, their sponsors and supporters, of which I am proud to be one.McKellen has taken his activism internationally, where it caused a major stir in Singapore. Invited to do an interview on a morning show, he shocked the interviewer by asking if they could recommend him a gay bar. The program immediately ended. In December 2008, he was named in Out's annual Out 100 list.
In May 2011, McKellen called Sergey Sobyanin, the Mayor of Moscow, a "coward" when he refused to allow gay parades in the city.
In April 2010, along with Brian Cox and Eleanor Bron, appeared in a series of TV advertisements to support Age UK, the charity recently formed from the merger of Age Concern and Help the Aged. All three actors gave their time free of charge.
While in New Zealand filming The Hobbit in 2012, McKellen announced a special show 'Shakespeare, Tolkien, ITR and You!', with proceeds from the two shows going to help save the Isaac Theatre Royal, which suffered extensive damage during the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. McKellen said he opted to help save the building as it was the last theatre he played in New Zealand (Waiting For Godot in 2010) and the locals' love for it made it a place worth contributing to.
He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1979, and knighted in 1991 New Year Honours for his outstanding work and contributions to theatre. In the 2008 New Year Honours he was made a Companion of Honour (CH) for services to drama and to equality.
In 2001 McKellen was awarded an honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the University of Bath. In 2004 McKellen was conferred an honourary Doctor of Letters by Lancaster University. He was praised for his diversity of roles, his "deeply considered dramatic technique" and his Lancastrian roots.
Sean Gerard Mathias (born 14 March 1956) is a British theatre director, film director, writer and actor.
Mathias was born in Swansea, south Wales. He is known for directing the film Bent and for directing highly acclaimed theatre productions in London, New York, Cape Town, Los Angeles and Sydney. He has also had a notable professional partnership with actor and former lover Sir Ian McKellen since the late 1970s (1978-1988).
He was included in the 2006 list of the 101 most influential gay and lesbian people in Britain by the Independent on Sunday. Mathias is co-owner of The Grapes pub along with business partners Ian McKellen and Evgeny Lebedev, since September 2011.
Despite his focus on theatre direction, Mathias is also known as a film director because of his first - and currently only - feature film, Bent, based on the play that propelled him to success. Released in 1997, it starred Clive Owen alongside McKellen, Mick Jagger, Rupert Graves, Jude Law and Lothaire Bluteau. It won the Prix de la Jeunesse at the Cannes film festival.
Mathias has been planning to direct a new film set, in South Africa and titled The Colossus, which he has adapted from the Ann Harries novel Manly Pursuits. Actors lined up for roles have included Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Colin Firth and Ian McKellen. As of 2010, this film project was still in its pre-production stage.
Sir Ian McKellen and Director, Sean Mathias, with Hishaam Ryklief and Khathu Khangala, leading actors in Mathias' ‘Waiting for Godot’ at the Fugard Theatre. Photograph: Timmy Henny
Sir Ian McKellen and director Sean Mathias
British Queer Cinema (British Popular Cinema) by Robin Griffiths
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (April 14, 2006)
Amazon: British Queer Cinema (British Popular Cinema)
British Queer Cinema draws together a diverse range of innovative new essays that explore, for the first time, the provocative history of lesbian, gay and queer representation in British cinema.
From the early years of ‘Pre-Gay’ film, through to the social upheaval of post-war ‘permissiveness’, Gay Liberation and the ‘post-AIDS’ queer generation, contributors examine the shifting and complex nature of queer identity, desire and spectatorship across a number of classical and contemporary British popular film genres and traditions.
Through case studies of key works such as The Killing of Sister George, Prick Up Your Ears and Beautiful Thing, a reappraisal of the films of Anthony Asquith, Terence Davies and Derek Jarman, to the ‘queerness’ of the heritage film, the homoerotic ‘New Wave’, or the star performances of Dirk Bogarde, Beryl Reid and Stephen Fry, this timely collection maps the relationship between contemporary queer sexuality and its socio-historical, national and critical contexts.
Still Acting Gay: Male Homosexuality in Modern Drama by John M. Clum
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Revised edition (June 17, 2000)
Amazon: Still Acting Gay: Male Homosexuality in Modern Drama
Still Acting Gay is a revision and expansion of Clum's celebrated book, Acting Gay. The book focuses on the relationship between American and British dramas written by and about gay men and the changing gay culture those plays reflect, from the carefully enforced closet to liberation politics to AIDS to the qualified security of the present. Still Acting Gay chronicles the transition of the gay man as subject for sensational melodrama to creator of many of the most powerful and celebrated plays of the late 20th century.
Who's a Pretty Boy, Then?: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Gay Life in Pictures by James Gardiner
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Serpent's Tail (June 1, 1998)
Amazon: Who's a Pretty Boy, Then?: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Gay Life in Pictures
A pictorial cruise through a century of gay culture by the author of A Class Apart
Ian McKellen: A Biography by Mark Barratt
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Virgin Books (February 16, 2010)
Amazon: Ian McKellen: A Biography
Sir Ian McKellen has appeared in theaters, on television, and film screens since the 1960s. Now, with his parts in the first two X-Men films and the phenomenally successful Lord of the Rings trilogy, he is known worldwide. This fully up-to-date biography includes new interviews and covers McKellen's childhood, his time at Cambridge University with Trevor Nunn and Derek Jacobi, roles in plays such as Henry V and The Seagull, Macbeth at the RSC, Broadway, and running The Actors' Company and the McKellen/Petherbridge Company. Also covering McKellen's advocacy of gay issues and his opinions against war, it gives a well-rounded view of one of Britain's greatest stage and screen actors.
More LGBT Couples at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
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